Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Hate Jargon (Doesn't everyone?)

In my inbox today, I received the following article from my alma mater- "Practicing Wisdom by Mindfulness  "  produced by no less than the "Wisdom Research" center.   I took  a  quick glance and  the article doesn't seem bad, but the title set me off.  Why is this?   I think its an inherent hatred for specialized language or jargon.  "Wisdom" is a fine word and "mindfulness" though a bit awkward is OK too  but imposing an artificial usage  on them full of, I presume, smarmy academic knowingness, made me want to punch the author in the nose (metaphorically only, as I'm sure Mr. Williams is a very wise and mindful gentleman and an editor could have picked the headline).

Its not just academia and not just me- my brother recently came to visit and while waiting for something else, we were in line at a hotel Starbucks in a line behind 5 or 6 budding young career women (there was a conference going on for them).   After about 2 minutes of listening to a variety of specialty orders, he sort of lost it and had to walk away.   After I got my "venti unsweetened black iced tea" (luckily he missed that- but in my defense, you have to say all that or else get 3 separate questions from the "barista" [grrr]), I caught up with him.  He was still muttering "What's wrong with just coffee, goddammit?"

I had the same feeling early in my career (oops almost said "back in the day") when business jargon used to find its way into discussions- "Proactive"  "Synergies" "Granular" (instead of "nitty-gritty")  and even "cut to the chase"  and "push the envelope" are a few quick memories of what used to set my teeth on edge.  Also the current usage of "goal" "impact" and "mission".  Also "SCOTUS"  (sounds like a variety of crotch rot).and all that rhymes with it. 

On the other hand though, I get a charge out of using jargon for other than its intended purpose-especially if it is uttered in deep tones of seriousness. Really, everyone, except the military, should try to work "target rich environment" into their discourse everyday. 

I know these jargon words are serviceable and perform a function and apparently most everyone understands them so why does it bug me?  Is it a genetic thing?  I think because it smacks of subconsciously feeling that someone is trying to force an artificial meaning on me- sort of big brother-y.    There is probably academic literature on this but I probably couldn't stand to read it. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cliches often start off as imaginative ways of expressing something. It's only through overuse that they grate. Still, many things we say would have sounded absurd or silly a century ago, or even a generation ago, but have simply become accepted.

For some reason I'm reminded of the movie Idiocracy where a person of average intelligence today is transported to a stupid future where his normal talk sounds ridiculously fancy and effeminate to the majority.

11:26 AM, September 25, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cass Sunstein, formerly of Chicago and the Obama Admin & now of some eastern school, apparently hates government speak (according to an article in the Sept 26 NYRB) including the phrase "not having enough bandwidth" even though he found the concept useful and wrote a whole article about it.

11:59 AM, September 25, 2013  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

You are dealing with a shifting paradigm - oops!

8:20 AM, September 26, 2013  

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